Ailsa Craig is a wee North Atlantic isle off Scotland that looks like a big curling stone. If you don't know what those are, you probably haven't been watching the sport of curling at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. It's played with brooms and a shiny stone that's made exclusively from rare granite mined on Ailsa Craig. "It's the Olympics' most relatable and honest of endeavors, an odd mixture of shuffleboard and chess featuring unassuming athletes seemingly lifted from your next-door neighbor's porch," says columnist Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times. Guide Mark McCrindle of Girvan, Scotland, takes visitors to Ailsa Craig on his small boat. He says some come to climb to the top of the volcanic isle while others want to see where curling stones come from. "It's the toughest granite in the world, and ideal for curling," McCrindle says. Others come to see vast numbers of seabirds like gannets and puffins.
Well a major operation is under way to take 1,500 tons of granite from Ailsa Craig — to meet the demand for new curling stones. And Scottish women’s curling success at the World Championships and the success of the GB Men’s and Women’s teams at the Olympics have given a boost to the six-week enterprise. For it is envisaged the game will gain new popularity in the wake of the silver and bronze medal triumphs. And Ayrshire firm Kays of Scotland are ready to produce new stones to meet the anticipated demand. Mauchline-based Kays have exclusive rights for the unique Ailsa Craig granite, and the firm has ferried heavy lifting machinery from Girvan harbour on to the rock. A company spokesman said: “Weather held us back, but we finally got the machinery on to the island, and we’re now ferrying granite twice or three times each day.”
Kays stress that the operation, originally planned for a year ago, has been planned in co-operation with the conservation watchdogs at Scottish Natural Heritage. And it is understood that no blasting or quarrying is taking place - large granite boulders being simply collected from former quarries. Most of the larger 'Common Ailsa' boulders will come from the south end of the island, while the rarer 'Blue Hone' will be collected from the north. Ailsa Craig's large gannet colony - boasting more than 20,000 pairs - is located on the west of the island, and should be unaffected by work which is now at the halfway stage. Kays are a small business employing around seven people at a factory in Mauchline's Barskimming Road; and they admit that the Scottish women's curling successes have boosted interest in their products. For, as well as making regulation curling stones, the firm also makes a range of giftware, including miniature curling stones particularly popular with foreign visitors.
Kays say the range will be promoted in a number of retail outlets including the Sweetie Shop in Girvan, the Turnberry Golf Pro shop, the Tam o'Shanter Experience in Alloway, and the Scottish Craft Centre in Buchanan Street , Glasgow. Kays last took major shipments of granite from Ailsa Craig in 1989, although they have regularly collected smaller quantities as the need arose. The 245-acre rock amd its little castle were recently on the market at an asking price of £2.5 million. The Guardian newspaper calls it the "granite jewel of the Firth of Clyde". The paper reported in December that it may be taken over by a conservation trust and that the asking price had been reduced to $2.4 million!!
So there were 11 Teams of Four playing in the Teams Championship last night at the Oxshott Village Hall with the special incentive that the Winners would represent the Oxshott Bridge Club in the Wanborough Cup in Wimbledon later in the Spring. The Competition was fierce as always, with the Winners being decided on the basis of one single IMP point!! You can read all about it in the Report (together with a Riposte from one of the Winners!!) by clicking on the "Competitions" tab in the Menu to the left of this box. There you will find the full Leaderboard and the Team Scoring Cross-Chart. The Winners will now represent Oxshott in the Wanborough Cup at Wimbledon later in the Spring.